As students of check fraud know, getting one's hands on a stolen or counterfeit check is "only half the scam." No matter how nicely a fraudster has replicated a check, it's not "money" until it is deposited, however briefly, into a bank account that the financial institution considers legitimate.
A bank drop refers to the illicit practice of using someone else’s bank account, often through coercion or deception, to receive and launder money obtained through illegal means. The funds are then typically moved or withdrawn to conceal their origin and avoid detection by authorities.
Referred to many in the industry as a "drop account," fraudster take advantage of the ability to open new accounts digitally without much identity verification, or find individuals that allow them to use their accounts for nefarious purposes.
Drop Accounts and YouTube
We've mentioned before the fact that YouTube can be a very useful platform for education and fraud prevention, given its reach and availability. At the same time, unfortunately, it can also provide disturbingly detailed tutorials for nefarious activity like check washing and digital counterfeiting.
The obvious place to find these sorts of underground tutorials -- as well as a marketplace for stolen checks -- is what's referred to as "The Dark Web." However, check fraud has gone mainstream and you can find "fraud lessons" right out in the open on mainstream sites like YouTube.
One such YouTuber -- with almost four thousand subscribers and nearly 18 thousand Instagram followers -- is Swipe Ent, whose channel subhead reads:
For all your scamming/wiping/money-getting Tim foolery. Plus some music hip hop news and viral content.
He indicates that getting someone to make an illicit deposit or bank drop is not hard, but the "in person" bank visit is no longer efficient.
"No, that's not how it's working in 2023. there's a whole bunch of digital ways you can drop a check these days; you could drop a check by mobile, you could drop a check on your computer, you could drop a check... there's different ways, different ways, different ways....".
Next, he advises that the "drop account" be more than a year old, as newer accounts arouse suspicion.
Additionally, Swipe Ent goes on to let viewers know he provides more than just video content:
"I'm telling you but anyway if you do need, if you need checks -- you know what I'm saying -- you can type in 'hit me up,' you know what I mean. I got everything."
Providing Advice to Rookies
A particular focus for financial institutions is that fraudsters are providing details and information that show a higher level of sophistication. Many rookie fraudsters make mistakes such as opening an account and immediately "dropping checks" into the account -- which will quickly alert the FIs. However, now the rookie fraudster understands that being patient and letting an account mature -- or finding an already-matured account -- can enable them to be more successful.
Additionally, by committing the fraud, the account will now be compromised and Swipe Ent. makes sure to let the viewed know that the account is now -- in cleaning terms -- "messed up" and should no longer be used.
To fight back, FIs need to deploy a multi-layered technology approach to check fraud detection, combining transactional analysis to monitor the transactions of an account, image forensic AI to interrogate the images of checks, leverage consortium data to identify accounts that are compromised, and dark web monitoring to identify if an account, account holder's information, or stolen checks are on sale on the dark web.
As more and more fraudulent checks schemes fall flat, YouTubers like Swipe Ent. will feel the backlash from negative comments and, in a perfect world, create real entertainment.